The Montreal event at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve proved to be one of Scuderia Ferrari’s standout Sundays of the 2023 Formula One season, alongside the Australian Grand Prix held earlier in April. The SF-23 demonstrated exceptional performance on tracks that share similar technical aspects, characterized by a scarcity of high-speed corners but a significant number of slower and medium-speed sections.
These circuit configurations undeniably play to the strengths of the Maranello-produced single-seater. However, it is crucial to note that the two races unfolded in markedly different manners. The Australian race revolved primarily around tire preservation, with the primary objective being to optimize the strategy for a one-stop approach.
Conversely, in Canada, drivers were able to push their limits without overly concerning themselves with tire management.
Moreover, Ferrari’s astute decision in the initial setup proved beneficial during the Pirelli test. The unique characteristics of the Canadian Grand Prix circuit undeniably favored the SF-23 car, a fact acknowledged by the personnel at Scuderia Ferrari. Nevertheless, the demanding nature of sustaining a consistent pace could have posed challenges for the team from Maranello.
«The problem isn’t so much tire degradation, but the consistency of performance», explained Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur several times this season.
In Montreal, Scuderia Ferrari managed to overcome their main weaknesses. The SF-23 car effectively handled both tire compounds, the Mediums and the hardest compound, which is good news especially regarding the challenging Hard tires that had previously caused issues for the Maranello team in this first part of the season.
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Following the disappointing Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, the Maranello team extended their stay in Barcelona for a test session with official tyre supplier Pirelli, specifically focusing on the 2024 tires. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz took turns behind the wheel, utilizing Carlos Sainz’s SF-23 from the Spanish weekend, while the Monegasque’s car was immediately sent back to the Maranello factory for crucial inspections after encountering problems during the seventh weekend of the 2023 F1 campaign.
In total, the two drivers covered an impressive distance of 1468 km, equivalent to nearly five Spanish GPs, completing a combined 314 laps.
Rumors circulating during the Canadian weekend suggested that the SF-23’s outstanding performance in Montreal was largely attributed to the insights gained from the Pirelli test. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were able to fine-tune and discover an ideal setup.
It is important to note that during these Pirelli tests, teams are not permitted to experiment with new components or configurations. They must choose a setup at the beginning of the day, provide it to Pirelli, and await validation. Pirelli ensures that the chosen setup aligns with their data collection objectives, particularly regarding front-rear balance and other significant characteristics.
Once the testing begins, teams are limited in making extensive setup changes, only able to make adaptations if the track conditions significantly evolve.
Scuderia Ferrari took a distinct setup direction, which proved successful in both Spain (Pirelli test) and Canada, although further confirmation is required.
Could the Pirelli tests in Barcelona be the catalyst for Ferrari’s resurgence? It’s not as simple as that. Immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix, a thorough analysis of the data collected from the weekend, especially the disappointing race on Sunday, was conducted. The analysis revealed that despite a complete rear axle replacement, Charles Leclerc’s SF-23 did not perform as expected by the technicians in Maranello.
The Italian side diligently studied the data and established a setup that diverged from their previous approach, which was then employed during the Pirelli tests. This change in direction was also confirmed by Charles Leclerc during the last round of the season. Here are some of his comments: “In this first part of the season, it was very difficult to understand the consistency of our car: we went from medium, which was going well, to another compound, where the car lost a lot of performance. Now we have taken a different direction in terms of set-up, and I immediately felt more comfortable.” – the Monegasque admitted.
Since the inception of the Pirelli tests, the technicians immediately noticed significantly improved performances compared to the race weekend. This observation was not coincidental.
Recognizing the potential, Charles Leclerc was promptly sent to the simulator to establish a correlation between the excellent data collected on the Barcelona track, despite the utilization of 2024 tires. These tires were slightly different from the current ones and even less divergent from those that teams will employ starting from Silverstone.
In essence, the true renaissance of Ferrari commenced on the Monday after the Spanish GP. The subsequent Pirelli test merely confirmed that the alternative path taken was the correct one.
Even without the two testing days, the SF-23s would have graced the Canadian track with the foundation derived from the analysis conducted on the Monday following the race in Spain. This analysis enabled the extraction of greater potential from the SF-23 EVO.
This, coupled with the characteristics of the Canadian circuit, contributed to the exceptional performance in the Montreal GP, securing at least the third-fastest position behind Red Bull and Aston Martin.
Looking ahead to Austria, there remains a sense of optimism as the Spielberg circuit is expected to suit the SF-23 well, as confirmed by F1 expert Piergiuseppe Donadoni for formu1a.uno. However, there is also curiosity surrounding whether the new setup direction will be effective on different tracks and under varying external conditions, including climate and asphalt quality.
The Spielberg circuit features a wider array of corner types compared to Montreal, including long and extending corners like 6 and 7. Nonetheless, it remains a circuit where rear grip is constrained, especially during multiple restarts, particularly in hot conditions.
Undoubtedly, the upcoming round will be crucial in confirming the improvements witnessed in Canada. Silverstone holds even greater significance, being a track where Ferrari has traditionally excelled but where the previous SF-23 would have undoubtedly faced numerous challenges.
In Austria, aerodynamic innovations will be introduced, alongside the well-known format featuring the Sprint Race. The ability to swiftly integrate all elements within the limited one-hour timeframe will be paramount. It is therefore no coincidence that the Italian will take to the Fiorano track tomorrow for the second 100km filming day, emphasizing their dedication to continuous progress in view of the second part of the 2023 Formula 1 championship.